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Strength Training

Ep. 8: Strength and Conditioning and The Lessons Learned | A Baseball Podcast

Geoff Rottmayer March 15, 2020 3

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Strength and Conditioning and The Lessons Learned with Dana Cavalea

Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development.

Guest Bio and Info:

Dana Cavalea is the former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the New York Yankees. In his time with the Yankees, he learned a lot about how professional athletes become the best in the world which lead him to write a book called, Habit of a Champion: Nobody Becomes and Champion by Accident.

Twitter: @CoachDanaCavalea



On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayersits down with Dana Cavalea, where we talk strength and conditioning in baseball as well as the lessons he learned by being around the best athletes in the world.

Show Notes:

In this conversation we discuss the following things:

  • His path to becoming a strength and conditioning intern for the Yankees.
  • How his employment with the Yankee went about.
  • How he came to be known as the core guy.
  • Gaining the trust of the players.
  • Interacting with the top end people of the organization and collaborate.
  • The in-season training program and what it looks like.
  • How to keep the body fresh over course of a long season.
  • Routines and how the best in the world are very routine driven.
  • The off-season training program and what it looks like.
  • The goal of the strength and conditioning program for older guys who have been around a long time.
  • How you need to assess before you can prescribe any type of program together.
  • Being patient and falling in love with the unsexy stuff.
  • His approach for guys coming back from injuries.
  • Lessons he learned being around the best players in the world.
  • His book Habit of a Champion.
  • Comparing the best athletes with the top CEO and leaders.
  • Trusting the process.

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What’s great about athletes, especially professional athletes, they don’t need variety. If it works, they’ll do that routine until its exhausted.

Dana Cavalea


Geoff:On today’s show, we sit down with Dana Cavalea former head strength conditioning coach of the New York Yankees and the author of the book called the Habit of a Champion. We talked some strength and conditioning and some lessons that he learned from the best in the world.
Intro:Welcome to another episode of The Baseball Awakening Podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host, Geoff Rottmayer.
Geoff:Welcome to The baseball Awakening Podcast, I am Geoff Rottmayer and today we are here with Dana Cavalea former head strength and conditioning coach for New York Yankees, and author of Habit of a Champion. Dana, how are you, sir?
Dana:I’m doing great. Thank you.
Geoff:Awesome. Look, It’s great to have you on. I want to get right to it. You are a guy who is known for being a New York Yankee strength and conditioning coach. Let’s dive into your story about how you got to be a Yankee strength and conditioning coach.
Dana:Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I started as a, as a ballplayer, just like, like, um, most of us. I had big dreams. I wanted to make it to the pros. That was my objective. I wanted to, you know, get on that big diamond and what I realized through my journey, you know, uh, I just wasn’t good enough, you know, I’ve asked to the college level and actually during my college career I made a choice and I said, you know, what, I, after identifying and really looking in the mirror at how good I actually was and how good I would have to be to get to that next level, you know, I made a decision to move on. And I said, no, I love to train. I enjoyed the training aspects. I went to the University of South Florida, I get a degree in sports medicine. And um, I really started as an intern intern with the football team there. And being a kid from New York, I knew that the Yankees had spring training not too far away. I knew the Blue Jays had spring training and the Pittsburgh pirates. So I said, this is going to be great. This is where I’m going to start my career. And a really, a couple of weeks before spring training in my sophomore year, I went up to Steinbrenner field a when some of the players were first starting to get there. And spring training was just beginning with that, my camera phone and taking pictures through a chain link fence, send money back home to New York. And, and I’m like, this is great. My friends are all cold in New York. My parents, the cold that I’m going to Florida, this is great. And uh, you know, I, I, a couple of days later went back to my internship at the University of South Florida football. And the head guy says to me, the Dean, I got a call from the Yankees and they’re looking for someone to help with an intern. Would you be interested in a couple days a week? And I said, man, this is, this is why I came down here outside of, outside of the sun. This was why I’m here. And, uh, I, you know, pulled up Steinbrenner field a couple of days later, walked in, somebody said it, the, all the, uh, I got to the front desk at the office. They said, are you Dana Cavalea? I said, yeah, that’s me. And uh, they threw a lanyard around my neck and a credential. Next thing you know, I’m in Yankee Short, Janky tee shirt and batting shell and I’m in the middle of the field, the same field. I was taking a picture of a couple days earlier and it was a kind of a surreal moment for me. And, and it was really at that moment that, that things started to change for me and, you know, it was kind of everything kind of came together and my decision to go to school down there and, and, uh, you know, just not playing ball myself and, and now getting to see firsthand how these pro guys train them. And uh, it was, it was really an amazing experience.
Geoff:Wow, that is awesome, I don’t think the story could have went any better than that.
Dana:Yeah, no, totally. Man. It was, it was, it was great.
Geoff:Cool so lets talk now, you are an intern, what’s that process like? What, what the, the strengthening and conditioning intern do. And what do they learn and how do they relate to the players?
Dana:Yeah. Well, the reality is when I was brought on, I really brought no value to the organization. I didn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t trained outside of training myself prior to that, which I learned this completely the wrong way. I didn’t bring any value to the organization. So I was the guy that is going to hand out water and towels and clean the equipment. But I realized very quickly I didn’t want to be the guy that just handed out towels and cleaned equipment. So what I did was this was back when the word core was just kind of starting out and it was like, you know, this buzzword of today. And what I realized was if I could grab onto that buzzword and I could learn as much as I can about the core, I could be known as the core guy and not just the towel and water guy and the cleaning of the equipment guy. So whenever players would walk in, I go home at night, I researched the core, I learned on the exercises the function, blah blah, blah, blah, blah. And I became the smartest guy in the room when it came to core training, so players would walk in, Derek Jeter would walk in, Hey Derek, can I take you through core? And, you know, a few times he’d allowed me to do it. And literally after I took him to the core, kind of have any other tricks in my, in my, uh, in my chest. So that’s really how I began as an intern. And then as I started showing up each and every day, you know, I, I learned a lot from the players. I learned a lot from other great staff members that taught me about baseball culture at the pro level. Uh, Steve Danahue, he was the head trainer with the Yankees. He taught me a ton and he was, uh, you know, a kind of a, somebody that wants to over me each and every day. The Equipment Guy Rob, who’s the one of my best friends to date, taught me about, you know, how to interact with players so they actually trust you and like you because he had been there for 20 years. And um, so I had a lot of people that, that were on my team early because I, you know, I was, I dunno, a likable guy and I, I came there with a dream that ended desire to work hard and it, and it worked out, you know, but as an intern early I didn’t have much to offer. I learned the core and then from there I started to really expand my, my skillset. But that’s it. That’s the only started.
Geoff:Nice! So whenever you came up with the process of thinking I’m going to learn much about the core did, did, did you approach the head trainer the hey, here’s what I’m thinking and what are your thoughts or this something that you kind of figured out on your own?
Dana:Yeah, that was something I figured out on my own. And also it was a part of the process that he actually allowed me to, to do on my own. You know, it was like, you’re not really going to hurt anybody working on their core, but you know, I’m not going to allow you to start writing programs and new players sit under squat back and do all these other things. So then, you know, I would have been a liability at that point, you know, so. So I, I had the freedom to explore very. I’m cautiously in the shallow end of the pool.
Geoff:Nice and what’s the conversation like when you’re working with Derek Jeter and you’re going to work on the core and what did he buy in or
Dana:Well, yeah I think at first it was probably, aaahhhh Mr. Jeter can I take you through the core? I think that’s probably how it started, but, uh, you know, after I, I got the butterflies out of my system. I mean this is a guy who was wearing the sneakers when I was in school so. Once I got, once I got over that Hump and again I was 19 years old at the time, two years removed from high school. Um, they were, um, not just him, but him and a bunch of the other guys were really great guys. You know, they, again, they saw that I was eager to help them and I was eager to, to, to become a pro in my own right. And a I a man, you know, I can’t say anything negative about the guys. They were so open to letting to giving me a shot and each time I, I got more confident in what I was doing and I gained more and more trust from them each and every day.
Geoff:Right and thats the part, gaining the trust and that parts takes time.
Dana:Yeah. And we always say, listen, just don’t be a jerk and you’re off to the right, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re moving in the right direction. And that’s totally what I, I, I learned from my parents early, you know, treat people with respect you good, bad or indifferent, you know, treat people respectfully. And at the end of the day your chances for overall success go up in anything that you do.
Geoff:Yeah so now you have done this internship and they decided that they want to bring you on full time. What’s that like?
Dana:Well, they, you know, they didn’t. I actually interned for free for three years. Then at that point I had actually graduated from college and um, you know, my mom is saying, hey, you got to get a real job. We just paid for your college and now it’s time to go and uh, you know, earn, you know, and I, you know, luckily I had some good heart to heart with my dad. I said, dad, you know, I don’t want to get a real job because what if I take that real job and then I can’t go do the Yankees thing in spring training again. And my dad said, listen, you it to do whatever you gotta do to make it work. And, you know, luckily I was acquiring this skillset of training and this was before, this was when functional type stuff was just coming out. It was just when it was like a really great time and I was right in the middle of it and actually I was right in the beginning of it learning all these skills. So I was, I was an innovator at the time and uh, it was, it was amazing. So I actually started, I moved back home from Tampa and I started to train people, kids primarily, you know, that we’re going to go play in college at my, on my high school football field and you know, the, the Ad there was cool. He knew what I was trying to do and knew my objective and he allowed me to train kids. I would literally, they’d come with $50 in cash, they pay me the cash, I trained them for an hour and I’d see him a couple days later and that, that was my business and you know, I got myself probably making a thousand dollars a week, you know, cash on a high school football field because I wasn’t ready to take on a real job with real responsibilities because I want it to be available. And uh, know it was, it was wild
Geoff:Oh Yeah so how did this employement end up happening?
Dana:Yeah. So, um, again I went back down to spring training the next year, another work for free type A or intern for free type experience. And the following year they actually let the guy that was, that I was working with go and they brought in another guy and they wanted to make me that new coaches assistant. So I actually started as an assistant and just a couple, just a couple months into the season we had a rash of injuries and Phil Hughes was pitching a no hitter, threw seven innings in Texas on a hot summer night on a hot April. And I had actually looked at summer and um, he tore his and that next morning, um, you know, Brian Cashman has let the head guy go and he called me into his palatial suite. I’m in Dallas at the hotel. And I was like, oh my gosh, I just got this opportunity to be the assistant a couple of weeks ago and now potentially it’s going to be gone. And he sat me down and luckily those few years that I had, you know, just forming relationships, he, uh, got to know who I was. And he sat me down and he said, Dana, I just want to ask you, if I make you the interim head strength coach, could you handle that? And uh, you know, I’m 23 years old at the time. There’s not much in my mind that I can handle. And I said, oh, absolutely Brian. Absolutely. And uh, and I got the shot of a lifetime.
Geoff:Wow, thats awesome! All of a sudden you are the head guy and in your mind you’re still kind of learning and stuff like that. So what was this whole process like?
Dana:Yeah, that whole process is kind of everything coming full circle where now here I am as a young player, you know, doing the lesson, hitting off a tee in New York in the middle of the winter. And, and you know, I lost my dream at one point of playing in the big leagues and now all of a sudden all these guys that I envisioned playing next to, I’m actually training. And it’s like, it’s like a mind blowing experience. And as I, every time I tell the story I get caught up because it’s like, it was just unbelievable. And it’s a story that most, that most people would not believe. And, and when I got that news, you know, I told my dad, dad, you know, you’re not going to believe this, you know, it was like, for me though, that was what that was like being, you know, drafted. And that was my draft and then I was selected by the, by the New York Yankees to, to lead the charge and lead the team. And it worked out and it worked out, uh, in a way that I, I just couldn’t imagine it. And that really, really took me to another place. I, I dialed it in, you know, Brian gave me an experienced and an opportunity of a lifetime. And I just said, you know, what, I’m 23, I have nothing to lose and I’m going to give this thing everything I got. And I went all in and I dialed it in and I wanted to have the best program we could have. I didn’t want any of our players to ever get hurt again. And um, and I just, I went to 100 miles an hour and nothing else in my life really mattered outside of that to be quite honest.
Geoff:Nice. You’re the head guy and you’re interacting with the manager. You’re interacting with the athletic trainer, but now you have more of a role than just working with the guys. Talk a little about that. Talk a little bit about that. What, what was that like?
Dana:Well, You know, again, it all kind of stems back to when I started. I was 19. I was wet behind the ears I was, I had nothing to lose. And you know, my first year I worked on there all those years that I interned. Joe Torre was the manager, so I knew Joe, um, interesting enough. Joe Girardi, he was still playing at that time. So I, Joe was one of my players that I interned, you know, he was still playing when I was an intern. So I knew Joe when Joe retired as a player, he became a part of Joe Torre coaching staff. So I knew Joe was a player, that I knew him as a coach. Again, I knew Joe Torre for four years and at the end of 2007, that was Torre last season who becomes a manager, Joe Girardi. So I was a very familiar face to these guys and they were very familiar to me. They knew who I was, I knew who they were, I knew the expectations and what was so great is the dialogue was so open at all times if they wanted something from me needed something from me, they asked and vice versa. So the communication factor was so clean and so clear that uh, it worked. So they made it really easy for me and Heath Donahue. The head trainer, he basically groomed me. So there was no issues there. So!
Geoff:Nice so now you are training guys at this point you are in-season, what does the in-season program look like?
Dana:In-Season program is like this. Never forget that the number one priority is playing the game. So your training should never interfere with a guy, you know, being able to play the game. So in season type training, early in the season, there’s higher volume, you’re doing more. But once the game volume starts to elevate your actually doing less, training volume too complex, we’re also finding out what sort of range of motion limitations exist, what sort of, you know, uh, you know, mobility issues exist and how could we put together programs that are specific to these athletes as individuals, not just a blanket program and a one size fits all program. So I was very big on creating an individualized plan for each player based on their goals and their needs. And uh, that’s how we went about it so that my expectation was I need you three days a week for training and I need you two days a week in addition to that to do your corrective and preventative type work five days a week
Geoff:Nice, so over the course of the year you get to the all star break and, and everyone’s body is Kinda, you know, they’re, they’re kind of feeling the work and what that approach like? So obviously you got to keep working, you got to stay on top of your body. What is it like at as the season goes on and everybody’s kind of feeling beat up.
Dana:Well, as the season goes on, guys are getting more and more beat up. You know, it’s like I always say it’s like a vehicle, you know, and you have 10,000 miles on the vehicle, you can play a little bit when you have 110,000 miles on the vehicle, the maintenance becomes that much more important when you have 210,000 miles, you know, you’d better make sure you’re on that thing every day. And that’s the way I approached players. You know, a player at 40 a player at 30 and a player at 20 is like you are 10,000, 110, 210. So I looked at the players that were older, they needed a lot more of my time in terms of the maintenance strategy and as the season went on, like a guy like Andy Pettitte at 40 years old, A-Rod at 40 years old, Jeter at 40 years old. They became full time jobs in them in their own right. So. So I tried to work with them one on one as much as I can and kind of carve out time within the day to say, Hey, this is what I need you here so I can give you all of me, you know, to make sure that you’re in the best position for success. A younger player that’s 21 years old, you can give him a little bit more free reign, you know, you’re more managing him then then actually going really, really deep. Like you would have an older player that needs a lot of the hands on soft tissue work, mobility, work a little bit different.
Geoff:Yeah so you got the younger guy and he’s fresh and he’s young and and a lot of times they don’t really maybe understand why the mobility or the soft tissue and all that work is important. So what’s that conversation like and getting them to say, look, you know, trust me, you’re going to need them. Want to stay on top of this.
Dana:Yeah! Well, you know what I did, I built it directly into the program and then when I started restructuring the restructuring, the minor leagues, it was a part of our program. It wasn’t like, okay, today we’re gonna focus on this specifically. It was actually just the way I formatted the program. A player would come in, the first thing they would do is address their soft tissue and then from there they’d go into their core development. From there they’d go into their conditioning work from there, go into their shoulder, you know, arm, exercise type program from there, you know, we’d worked on their hips balance, et cetera. From there we’d go into their strength training and then after that we’d do a stretch and get them ready to go. So it was a very structured and very formatted program and I tried to really think about it as, you know, inspired by Henry Ford and say, how can I turn this training thing into an assembly line? Player comes in, play as does this. Then he does this, he does this and he does this and he’s out and he knows that I’m going to go through these five different stations or five different segments rather of the program and then I’m out. So it provided for structure and you know, I looked at athletes they need to be coached because they can’t function if they’re not coached and the most important thing you could do as a coach outside of giving them the support they need is giving them structure much like as a kid, you know, um, and, and that’s what I did. So I gave him structure, gave them a personalized plan and then supported them and held them accountable to that plan. That was it. And did it over and over and over and over again.
Geoff:Yeah and they were, they were expecting that and okay with it because at the end of the day, they understand the consistency and the routines and all that stuff.
Dana:And what’s great about athletes, especially at the pro level is, you know, unlike the general population, they need, the variety. They don’t need the spice and all that. Just make it do this because it’s cool, indifferent. They, if it works, they’ll do that routine until it’s exhausted. I mean I’ve seen players on routines for years and because it’s working for them and I always say if you want to derail a player, you know, changes routine and you can really, really mess with his, his head quite a bit, you know?
Geoff:Yeah. I love it. And routine. Do you know, I, I try to spend a lot of time getting our guys to understand the important of routines and the ones that buy in are very consistent in terms of what they do at practice and what they do on the field.
Dana:Yeah. The routine is the foundation for success.
Geoff:Yeah. So let’s jump into the off season. What is that like? You know, everyone’s obviously a little different. So kind of talking about what that’s like.
Dana:The first goal and objective of an off season is to rest and relax and recover. Not just physically, but mentally. You got to unplug. You have to be able to just be and not feel like you have to do something and not feel the responsibility of I have to train, so I always give our guys listening from the date of the season and I want you to take four weeks and not do anything. I want you to get out of shape for the first time and this year I want you to get out of shape a little bit. I want you to, you know, put on a couple of pounds. If you do, it doesn’t matter. Do whatever you want to do, four weeks, that’s all yours. After that four weeks, I’m going to ask you for three days. So he’s an ends September 301st, you get to have until October 1st and you don’t have to do anything just hanging out October 1st, now I need you to do something three days a week and I’ll put your plan together for you there. And that first phase is to say, you know what? You a little bit out of shape after not doing anything for four weeks. Now we’re going to start to work on your endurance. We’re going to start to work on your cardiovascular efficiency, we’re going to start to build your capacity up a little bit and uh, you know, we’re going to do more body weight type work, single leg stability type stuff to really make sure that your foundation is as strong as possible and that’s where we start. And then as we get into this, uh, you know, um, November, then we take it up again. We go to one to two days off of work, one day off, two days on, two days off, and now we’re starting to reintroduce weight training. We’re starting to get a little bit more aggressive, so it’s just a progressive build.
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Geoff:Yeah. So when you got a guy at that level, maybe more of an older guy, and again I know I know everyone’s different, but is the goal to get stronger or the goal just to get a solid foundation or what? We’re talking a little bit about that. What’s that like?
Dana:Yeah. So the first thing is always is making sure that you have a stable foundation, whether you’re young or old. Now the one thing that I’ve learned through the years is that there’s a big difference between getting big, putting on size, which we call hypertrophy and gaining strength and increasing power. Now baseball is the power sports. So ultimately we have one goal when it comes to improving somebody’s physical profile. Once we make them stable, the number one goal is to increase their power. I don’t care how big your biceps are, I don’t care how big your chest is, I don’t care how much you can lat pull down that at the zero for me. I care about your power output. So if we’re going to measure power output, let’s just say we’re going to use vertical jumps, we’re going to lose used long jumps and we’re going to use the lateral jumps. I got to make sure that my training is maintaining you. If you’re already a pro, you’ve shown the ability to generate enough power. I got to put programs together that show as you age, you’re going to maintain that power profile. And if I’m developing you, I need to be focused on continuing to increase your power. And you do that in a much different way than just, you know, lift and get strong and get big that doesn’t carry over to the game. So, so many years I would see guys that were big and burly and I’m like, they’re probably going to suck because the players that are loose and limber, but are, explosive, that’s the player that always goes on and has, uh, you know, results provided that their, their, their head is intact as well, you know?
Geoff:Yeah. So the internet is kind of a scary place.
Dana:It’s dangerous.
Geoff:Yeah. That would be a better way to put it, is the dangerous place. So with, with all the program floating around and say you need to do this, do you need to do that, you know, say Olympic lifting or no, you do yoga, how can, how can one say that and what are your thoughts?
Dana:Well, the only way you could say whether somebody needs a certain thing versus another, if you assess and evaluate them and you’re able to see a deficit that exists if somebody has power or some, you know what I mean? If somebody has adequate flexibility in all, in all ranges of motion, you know, Yoga becomes less important for flexibility but you still may want to use it on a recovery day for the mental benefits and just to Elongate the tissue. So the Internet is the worst place to go find routines. And what I find a lot of kids doing today, they’ll go on instagram and they’ll see exercises they like. They’ll pick those five or 10 exercises and they’ll call that their routines. Now when it comes to, you know, when it comes to Olympic lifting, I’m a fan of Olympic lifting because we’re trying to generate and build more power in our players, so Olympic lifting is great, but you got to understand Olympic lifting is a very, very intensive high coaching high teach a act. It’s not easy to teach somebody to Olympic lift well and you start them off using their body weight and you start them off using a dowel, but if they can’t even control their body, like most young athletes, it can’t on one leg and reach out to the side. They can’t even do a quarter squat on a single leg. They can’t launch without their front leg bowing in and blowing out. So if you Olympic lift them, you’re going to potentially really get them hurt. So you’ve got to build that foundation. And I spent so much time, like I said, building foundation. I have a player now. He’s playing in Boston college and he’s a freshman there. I got him in 10th grade and I said, listen, for your sophomore year, I want to tell you something. We’re going to just focus on making you stable, strong core trunk foundation, strong glutes, work on the ability to actually squat properly, to lunch, to step up and we’re going to build strength like that, but moving resistance is not my goal and concern. I’m going to teach you the foundations of Olympic lifting and then that following year when you show a proficiency, that’s when we’re really going to get going and this guy went from lifting basically the body weight and a bar the end of his sophomore year to clean, pulling over 400 pounds and he’s only. He was only 180 pounds. Very short period of time. We’ve made those gains, but only because we built a rock solid foundation.
Geoff:Yeah and thats where patient part has to come into play. We are so quick. We don’t want to do the non sexy work. We want to do all the sexy work, but the non sexy work that what allows you to do the sexy work that and we are skipping all of that and it’s dangerous like you said.
Dana:Yes, and, and I’ll have, you know, this, you know, when I designed programs, 25 to 30 percent of my program is what is the actual, like weight training, the other 70 percent is all the preparatory work, all the stability, all the foundational work. I never let that go ever. So they’re only really getting after it for 30 percent of the program. And when you, when you’re a good teacher and a great coach, they understand the importance of that 70 percent and that’s what makes them unshakeable and uh, and unbreakable and a lot of ways. So that’s why I have, you know, now there’s all these quick fix programs that exist. Oh, get these weighted balls and started launching them into nets. And it’s like if you have a guy that can’t even control the scap, he has a foward rounded shoulder posture. A lot of young athletes do today. Go ahead and do that. You’ll gain some miles an hour. I guarantee you you’ll blow out. It’s just a matter of time. So I, I’m, you know, I’m a subscriber of have a very, very important word development. And as a coach, especially in the youth rank, you have one job, develop and cultivate your talent and develop it. And development is a longterm process. Think about how long it takes the kid to go from crawling to walking to running. It’s neurologically you’re developing. And that’s the same thing that happens here. You know, swing mastery takes the whole career.
Geoff:Yeah, I agree. So when, how did you figure out, okay, maybe this guy needs a little bit of yoga, or is that you recommend or that something that they recommend or is there place for Yoga?
Dana:Yeah, there’s a, there’s a place for, for everything, if its needed. I don’t look at one thing and say, you know what? Oh, we only do Bosu work. Oh, we only do trx. Oh No, we only do movement type, you know, animal just like animal movements and things like that. Then there’s too many people that are getting into one camp and they’re saying, you got to do this. And I had an argument the other day with somebody that posted on, on on social media that said basically static stretching is dead. There’s no reason to static stretch. And I said, that’s incorrect, that’s absolutely 100 percent incorrect. And I’ve used that stretching. I’ve had huge benefit from it. I’ve also used dynamic stretching and have huge benefits for it. So it’s, it’s everything’s got to be individual and you’ve got to know when to use what tools and, and you say how well iss and I evaluate, you know, and that’s when I deploy the appropriate tools for the appropriate situation. And Yoga is a part of the mix, you know, but very few players do it and if you don’t like yoga and I prescribe it, what are you going to get out of it? So it’s, it’s, it’s a part of it. And I’m not saying it’s good and I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m saying that it’s situational and if you’re a team and you see that most of your kids have tight hip flexors and they’re locked up with a lot of kids do. And as a coach you want to have a yoga class on a Saturday, that’s great. I will never speak against that. Um, but it comes down to knowing when to deploy your resources. And as a youth coach, you got to know, uh, you know, your overall objectives if 90 percent of your team is tight and yoga is probably a good option, but so you know, you can also use other rope stretching and you could also use some other strategies as well.
Geoff:Yeah. So you’ve got a guy that is hurt and he’s coming back, he did hit rehab or whatever. And now he started back on a strength program. What, what is that like? The routine of assembly?
Dana:Well, it all depends if he’s surgically hurts and he had to get surgery and he’s coming back and where he is in that process. But for the most part when somebody gets hurt you, you to go all the way back down the ladder. So are building their foundation again. Once they show proficiency that they’re stable, they’re bodies under control and they’re able to show you competency, then you know, you can start to move them through. I call it the progressions that continuum. You can move them up the ladder, but if they don’t show that proficiency, you know, again, setting yourself up to fail. So they have to earn their way up that ladder.
Geoff:Yeah. Because along with that mental barrier,
Dana:Yeah, that’s a big thing. That’s a big thing. I mean, there’s injury affects everybody differently. Listen, I’ve seen guys that use injury as, as a, a way to get paid, you know, in the, in the, in the big leagues, you know, a guy that maybe been, a journeyman minor leaguer, he knows he may have like a year or two left in his career, he gets a big league call up and he says, you know what, I’m hurt and you get on the DL as a big leaguer and you’ve spent your whole career in the minor leagues, you’re going to make more on that DL stint then you may make for the entire season as a minor leaguer. So a guy may get hurt, you know, or something. And he’ll use the injury process to, to help him-self financially. Um, that’s, that’s crazy. But it’s true. But in terms of, so everybody, injury affects people differently psychologically. And it’s something that I’ve seen through the years. Um, you know, sometimes ends guys, careers, the mental side, they just can’t get over that, over that hump again. And, and the guy that may not have great confidence, he, he could get hurt and feel like, hey, my armor is, is bro is damaged, damaged armor. Now I, you know, I don’t know if I could do it. And it’s totally hacks their confidence. You see that with young kids too. Yeah.
Geoff:So the benefits to being the head strength and conditioning coach, New York Yankees, if you got the hanging out with the guys like, A-Rod, Jeter and Rivera and all those guys and you got the learn something from them. So what, what are those like him? What did you learn from?
Dana:I learned, I learned some things that, that, that I can honestly say changed my life, uh, and in a way that I didn’t think was possible. And what I learned was I was always the guy that said, you know what, if I’m not working somebody else’s, what should I do more and should keep working? And when I saw these guys, uh, I learned something totally different. I was told as a young athlete you should be the first one at the field and the last ones to leave when I saw these guys that learned something totally different, I was always trying new things, but as a first try this, try that, see what I like, try this, try that, and I never gave anything to chance to, to really marinate and really see what the longterm effects of something, um, you know, would be. So when people ask, well, what did you learn from those guys? I learned that it’s not so much time on the job, it’s what you’re doing with that time. It’s what you’re doing when you’re there. It’s also I learned being consistent. It’s not about doing more, it’s about potentially doing less and being really consistent in that. So pick, instead of doing 10 things, pick five things, but do those five things with incredible precision, incredible focus and do it everyday. And baseball’s the kind, the kind of game where we play so much that we have the opportunity to really lock in on a routine and master that routine. It feels so secure in that receives so consistency. Um, I saw Jeter, I saw Pettit, I saw Mariana. Lot of these guys are the last ones to the field and the first one, but when they got to the field, they just executed. They had a list of, of execution points that they had to get done. So they got to the field, got undressed and hit the ground running. Game ended, boom, cold tank, shower gone media gone, you know. So I, I learned that at that level, the rules are very different for those that are at the highest level and have 10 plus year careers. Um, the guys at a 10 plus year careers, they stay working a completely different in a completely different manner. They’re not trying to impress anyone, they’re not constantly changing and switching and trying to find the new fad or the new whatever, you know, it’s my wristband. That’s why I got a hit that, that doesn’t, doesn’t exist with those guys. You know, they’re just so confident and so convicted in what they believe and how they go about their business that nobody’s going to question it. And even if they did question it, they don’t care they’re doing it. They just become so internally driven and focused and nothing on the outside breaks that.
Geoff:Nice. Thanks for sharing that. But, With all the experience you have, all that you’ve done, you wrote a book called the Habit of a Champion. Yeah. Talk a little bit about the book and how it evolved, how it came about and, and what you’re doing with it.
Dana:Yeah. So as a coach, you know, I’m always looking for, for new tools for my toolbox and uh, you know, different ways when you’re dealing with players from all over the country and you’re dealing with coaches from all over the country. Um, everybody has different experiences. Everybody has, um, I guess different ways that they go about things. And I wanted to know, I’m always reading, always finding different ways and strategies to connect with people and connect with people. So, you know, a lot of the books that I was reading, I was reading a lot on leadership and a lot on, you know, how to do things, but it was coming from a very textbook and classroom based and lab based point of view. And I said, you know, all this stuff that I’m reading, I’ve worked with the best in the world both in sports and business and they don’t go about it like this and these and these people have achieved more than the person writing the book. And I said, you know, what doesn’t make sense. I said, I gotta I need to, to help coaches and help entrepreneurs and help parents and help, you know, a developing athletes. I need to create a book that’s a resource that can be picked up at any page, no matter what age you are, you could relate to the stories and it can keep you honest and they can keep you moving through your journey and, uh, give you just really sound core principles and using stories and examples to do so. And that’s really what the book was about. There was such a gap between what I was reading and what I actually experienced from the best in the world and I said, you know what, this, this doesn’t make sense. I want to expose people to the real, to the real stuff and not the sugarcoated fluffy stuff that’s out there. You know, that’s just sounds, but it doesn’t work.
Geoff:Right. It’s definitely a great book and I highly recommend. Thank you. With the CEO that you’ve worked with, some of the leadership that you’ve worked with, have you found a lot of similarities to what they do compared to some of the athletes?
Dana:100, 100 percent. You know, business is probably. I always say it’s the most competitive sport in the world and you got to be prepared to play. The biggest difference I see with most the majority of CEO’s, leaders, executives, is that they’re actually not prepared and ready to play the sport of business. An athlete understands I need to be physically fit and mentally fit in order to play in the highest level, but when I saw it was a lot of CEO’s, executives and leaders, they didn’t understand that they just go until they burn out. They pushed, they push, they push with very little physical or mental preparation, very little recovery and relax time. Uh, no off season play all year. And really I, I, I saw that the top CEO’s and the guys that really get it, we’re very much like professional athletes and not just professional athletes but did Jeter asking the first ballot type guys that understood the balance of work and the balance of rest and relaxation and an unplugging and keeping things simple and executing on a day to day plan and trusting that plan with consistency.
Geoff:Nice. That’s why you see a lot of athletes go on and start a business and actually do pretty well because it’s almost the same, you know, the, the, the mentality and the approach.
Dana:Yeah, very similar, very similar. And what athletes are able to do that most people can’t do. I call it checking the boxes. If you give an athlete, hey, you need to do these five things, the chances of an athlete doing those five things everyday at the same time with consistency and the same way in the same manner versus the average person or even the average leader, they don’t blow them away. Uh, an athlete, the percentages of them checking the boxes is, is crazy because they’re trained to check the boxes. They’re trained to warm up before every game. They’re trained to do this. So when they approach business, they approached it the same way. They are looking for those box to check and creating order immediately. How do I create a structure? How do I create order? There’s no reactivity. It’s just I’m always proactive and always being on the offense.
Geoff:Yeah, so If I’m a young guy and listening to this man and I want to go down the same path that someone like yourself, what in terms of strength and conditioning, you know, in times of change to it, maybe you had to maybe have them changed at all. But what do I do if I want to be a strength and conditioning coach?
Dana:Well, the first thing you do is you make sure that you really want to do that and you learn all about it and what it takes because it’s not what people think. It’s definitely not glamorous. It’s very tough on the body. It’s very tough on them line. You’re an athlete in your own way and uh, the hours are crazy and it’s a, it’s a huge undertaking. So you’ve got to make sure that your cut for that and you actually want that for the right reasons and that you have a passion to develop players. You’re no longer the player. You are now the person that develops the player. So you have to be very comfortable developing talent and then watching that talent perform and you are not the star of the show anymore. So you’ve got to. I always said that’s the key. Realize that you’re not the star of the show. When you realize that, then you can make the next step. And the next step is saying, am I willing to give 100 percent and expect nothing in return? That’s the next question you have the ask yourself, and if you answer yes to those first two questions, then you can go execute the strategy and the strategy is, you know, go get yourself in a position to intern and, and meet right people, you know, um, that, that already hold the positions that you have and ask for a chance. See if someone will take the gamble and a flyer on you. You know, you’re, it’s dry out, then you to go make the team. Same thing. Yeah.
Geoff:Yeah. Great Advice. And Dana, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but for me, I learned a lot and I’m pretty sure that our listeners will as well.
Dana:Yeah, no, you got it. Absolutely. I enjoy helping people and spreading a good message to daily say, you know, I just, I just want to help people. I’m not get caught up in the spider webs and the traps that are promising quick fixes and false reality. Anytime you want to develop yourself as a player or as a successful leader in anything that you do, it’s time and it’s, it’s a lot of sacrifice and, and there’s a lot of days where there’s no return on that investment that you can see it’s happening, but just keep checking those boxes and, and in the end, when you look at five, 10 years, you’re going to say, wow, I can’t believe what I accomplished. This is amazing. But you gotta hit it hard every day.
Geoff:Yeah. It’s got to be a big picture focus, you know, nothing good happens overnight.
Dana:No abd you got to trust that process. And there’s gonna be days where you don’t see progress, but just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And you got to and you’ve got to trust that
Geoff:Yes, we need, we need a lot more of the type of kids that we have. Could they really think they want to play? Because it’s not easy. I mean, no, nothing,
Dana:not easy. Most, most people fail. Most, most people, players, most players don’t make it. Um, but if they can learn the things that I’m talking about, there’ll be successful with those skills and they can apply them in anything that they do. So, talent, what hampers people from getting to the actual level that they wanted. So that’s what, that’s what got me. I had to work ethics. I had the desire, I didn’t have the talent and accepted it. Make a change. Yeah.
Geoff:Awesome. Well Listen Dana, I learned a lot. Thank you very much for your time. A lot of knowledge bomb dropped today. Thank you very much sir.
Dana:Got It. My pleasure. Happy to do it.
Outro:I am Geoff Rottmayer and thank you for listenting to our conversation on The Baseball Awakening Podcast. Stay tuned for our recap show tomorrow.

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Download now: Ep. 8: Strength and Conditioning and The Lessons Learned | A Baseball Podcast

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Geoff Rottmayer

Geoff Rottmayer is the owner of Athletic Mission Baseball Academy, a training facility in Tulsa Oklahoma. Geoff also host The Baseball Awakening Podcast, which was developed to provide content to the baseball community straight from the source. In addition that that, Geoff, is helping coaches and professional start their own podcast and find their own voice.

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